Oxfordshire's first dedicated volunteer search and rescue team is being set up by a former Thames Valley Police officer.

Gary Foo and his wife Virginia, who was formerly a police officer in Canada, are training a team of 27 volunteers to form Oxfordshire Search and Rescue (Osar).

It will offer back-up to Thames Valley Police, with volunteers ready to join searches or use specialised rescue techniques when people go missing or are in danger.

Similar teams exist across England, but until now Oxfordshire has relied on help from neighbouring counties such as Berkshire and Wiltshire.

Now, thanks to investment by London-based security firm Lloyds Templegate, of which Mr Foo is a director, the Osar team is expected to be trained and ready to be mobilised by March. Alex Uden, Lloyds Templegate's senior security manager, is to become Osar's operations manager.

The team will be based in Henley but it is hoped smaller units will eventually be stationed around the county.

Mr Foo, who was a police officer for 18 years, said: "With all these floods and natural disasters, it's good to know Oxfordshire now has its own search and rescue unit. We felt it was something Oxfordshire really needed."

Osar has been formally recognised by the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue, which acts as the national governing body for search and rescue teams.

Volunteers usually have other jobs but will be contacted in an emergency.

The Osar team will also be available to help local organisations needing marshals, fire wardens, first-aiders and security staff for events.

Osar wants volunteers from all over Oxfordshire to come forward to be trained. It also needs more medical equipment to provide a full service.

Mr Foo said: "A full-scale search takes a lot of people, so we could use another 50 volunteers who can respond to call-outs around Oxfordshire, or work with our specialised personnel.

"We still need a headquarters, a place to park our rescue van, more vehicles, an ambulance and rescue equipment."

For more information, call Mr Foo on 01491 842939.